By Adam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Many of the world’s top Indigenous hip hop artists are heading to Manitoba this week.
This upcoming weekend, Winnipeg will host the International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards Show for its second-ever edition.
Available to attend for the public both in-person and virtually, organizers are hoping the event will raise the profile of many of the featured artists.
Artson, J25, MzShellz, Mic North, Kenny Murkz, Melody McArthur, Pooky G, Savelle Tha Native, She-Roze, Valkyrie, The Ra11n, and DJ DLO are among the artists performing at the two-day event.
Additionally, a trade show will offer attendees “access to booths where artists and fans can share, connect, and buy merchandise.”
Performers A’a:liya Warbus and Sly Skeeta will host the event.
“I’ve kind of been waiting for an opportunity like this my whole career,” said Sly Skeeta in an interview with Windpseaker.com.
“I’m just super hyped ad excited to be a part of that.
Winnipeg is a growing city, but at the same time, there’s not really too many record labels and management or agents or people saying, `I’m going to discover you and sign you to a record deal’.”
In addition to hosting the event, Sly Skeeta is nominated in the best male hip hop artist category. Last year, he was one of the nominees in the Breakthrough Artist of the Year category, which ultimately went to Rezcoast Grizz.
“That nomination definitely brought me exposure,” Sly Skeeta said. “In terms of the press and the media, I did an interview for the Winnipeg Free Press and they had my picture in the front of the entertainment section, which was super awesome.”
The event works to increase the national and international exposure of Indigenous urban arts performers.
“We will shed light on the movers and shakers who are helping shape our urban economy, by celebrating and acknowledging the dedication, community impact and artistic merit of export-ready Indigenous hip hop artists, singers, visual artists, spoken word poets, producers, deejays & more that all make up the Indigenous urban entertainment culture,” reads the awards show website.
Tickets for the event are available starting at $15 for a one-day pass for the trade show, or $35 for the awards show. The two-day pass, which includes both the awards and trade shows, costs $50.
Access to a virtual online stream to support the awards is also available for $35. All ticket options are available at https://www.indigenoushiphopawards.com/tickets/
The trade show will take place starting this coming Friday, Aug.
26 at the Motto Workspace on the third floor at 72 Princess St, while the awards show is taking place the following day at the Exchange Event Centre located at 291 Bannatyne Ave.
This year’s event is the first large in-person opportunity in a while for many of the performers, with last year’s event held virtually due to COVID-19 concerns. Sly Skeeta says the trade show, which also features musical workshops, will be a great networking opportunity for performers and attendees alike.
“I’m rubbing shoulders with some of the best Indigenous artists in the world,” he added. “It’s a great opportunity for artists on the come up or people who want to be curious as being like, `What is Indigenous hip hop? How can I get involved’?”
Born to an Eritrean refugee father and an Ojibway mother, Sly Skeeta first started making music in the late 1990s.“For the bigger picture in terms of who I am as an artist, the first time I got on stage was in 1998 in the battle scene,” he said. Battle is a duel between artists that showcases lyrical creativity, often with putdowns and punchlines, humour and wordplay.
“Just as much as I’ve been in the hip hop scene, I’ve been in the electronic scene.”
He cites rap icons Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. as two of his biggest influences, but Sly also feels that his father’s love of Motown music, like The Temptations, The Four Tops, and the Jackson 5, were instrumental as well.
“I think that’s definitely what moulded me into being inspired by music,” he said. “I started gravitating towards going to HMV, buying cassette singles, and then delving into it myself.”
But his inspiration also comes from home in Winnipeg.
“It’s so multi-cultural in our city that you get influenced by so much,” he said. “My firstborn son is half-Trinidadian, and a lot of my friends are from the Caribbean. So I was influenced by like reggae music and dancehall.”
Sly Skeeta said he’d like to see artists continue to shine light on important issues to Indigenous people, like the residential school system within Canada, clean drinking water, government corruption, and police brutality.
“I feel like there needs to be that balance of talking about real issues that affect our people, Indigenous people,” he said.
“The history is there and we’re still going through it? My mom was in residential schools, my auntie, my uncle. Sometimes, I can look into my mom’s eyes and I wish I could just give her the biggest hug to get her through that.”
Adam Laskaris is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter who works out of
WINDSPEAKER.COM. The LJI program is federally funded. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.